By Ronald Hanaki
During last month’s spring break, Dr. Carrie Lynn Maloney took the 14 students in her “Foreign Study I” class to Ireland. Dr. Lloyd Lyter, an Instructor of Social Work, also accompanied Maloney’s students to the Emerald Isle.
Maloney is a Professor of Sociology and serves as coordinator of the criminal justice program. “Foreign Study I” is a comparative study of criminal justice systems in the world, and being in Ireland enabled her students to see firsthand how different the two systems were.
Maloney said, “I had been hearing about different study abroad experiences, but there hasn’t been an experience like this in our department for a very long time. So I started looking into it as a possibility and researching subjects that made sense for the department.”
“It stemmed in part from last year when we brought Sonia ‘Sunny’ Jacobs and Peter Pringle, two death row exonerees, to ESU to speak. I had such good feedback that I chose to take my students to Ireland,” said Maloney.
Jacobs and Pringle were both wrongfully convicted for murders that they did not commit. Jacobs served 17 years in the United States, and Pringle served 15 years in Ireland before they were exonerated and released. They became activists against the death penalty, which led the two to an Amnesty International meeting.
The couple are now married and live in Ireland where they run a support center that helps other death row exonerees reintegrate themselves back into society.
“Sunny’s center in Connemara is absolutely beautiful,” said Maloney.
At their center, Jacobs and Pringle talked to the students about their experiences being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death row.
“The students were silent. You could hear a pin drop,” said Maloney.
Morgan Wise is a senior criminal justice major.
Wise said, “I wish we would have less of a stigma for criminals, especially for those who are wrongfully convicted on death row.”
During the first full day that the class was there, the students visited a former prison called Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. It is now considered a historic site, and Maloney’s students were able to take a tour of the prison.
“It was an eye-opening experience for the students,” said Maloney.
The students then visited Trinity College Dublin where the Book of Kells, a manuscript of a Gospel book in Latin that also happens to be illuminated, is famously on display.
The class went to Belfast in Northern Ireland and visited Queen’s University where they attended a lecture presentation by Dr. Gavin Davidson. He gave a presentation on social work and how the criminal justice system affects the youth in Northern Ireland.
After the lecture, Maloney’s students had a cup of coffee with the Queen’s University students and talked about the differences in their two cultures.
Amanda Weise is a junior criminal justice major.
Weise said, “Being able to sit in a lecture about Northern Ireland’s criminal justice and social work systems at one of their universities and to talk with their students was amazing.”
The students learned that one of the bigger differences between the two systems is that the threshold to be incarcerated is higher for most non-violent offenses.
Jessica Hetrick is a junior criminal justice and sociology double-major.
“I talked to their students, and I learned a lot. According to their students, their prison system is a lot more lenient than ours,” said Hetrick.
“We tend to put them in a cell and lock them away for 24 hours a day,” said Hetrick. “They give them a lot more freedom. They didn’t necessarily say that was good, but that is how their system is.”
Wise said, “I wanted to learn about their system. I wanted to see the differences.”
The Irish students seemed interested in the differences, too.
“The Irish people were very curious about Donald Trump,” said Wise. “They know him as a reality star, but not as a businessman.”
The students took a fun and exciting tour of the nearby islands before heading to Galway City for an overnight stay.
They went to Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights. Jacobs and Pringle rejoined Maloney’s class there, and the couple talked more about their experiences being on death row.
Then the students made their way back to Dublin where it was St. Patrick’s Day.
The class also had a free day where they broke up into small groups and visited famous Irish landmarks such as the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle.
“The ocean is 200 feet below you, and you are standing on a cliff,” said Weise of the Cliffs of Moher. “It was amazing.”
“Everywhere you turned, there was more history and culture to be learned. Being in a country as old as they are was very eye-opening. We tried to see as much culture as we could,” said Weise.
Weise also credited Dr. Lyter for his expertise.
“Dr. Lyter was an insane amount of help because he has been to Ireland many times,” said Weise. “We saw many aspects of Ireland that no regular tourist would ever see.”
The students all came back with rave reviews of the trip and Dr. Maloney.
Wise said, “It was awesome. Everyone was welcoming.”
“I am thankful to Dr. Maloney for planning and setting up this trip,” said Wise. “It was 14 people, so I have to commend her for that. It couldn’t have been easy.”
Maloney said, “A faculty-led abroad experience is different from a full-on study abroad. For now, we want to incorporate this or a version of this into the curriculum as our students go through their four years.”
“Piloting this was a unique opportunity. A lot of faculty have experiences and contacts in other countries. So the challenge for our department is how to incorporate this moving forward,” said Maloney.
“But our students will always have at least one opportunity to participate if they want to,” said Maloney.
Maloney’s class will have a poster presentation about their Irish trip on exhibit from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Hoeffner Science and Technology Center during the Student Research and Creative Activity Symposium on Monday, April 10.
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